Trump ‘Vision’ for Israeli-Palestinian peace is dead on arrival; maybe that’s by design

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Palestinian factions have already rejected the “vision” for peace proposed by US President Donald Trump. Given that the plan openly aligned the US with Israel, one must wonder whether that was the intended outcome all along.

Billed as a “Vision for Peace, Prosperity and a Brighter Future,” the 180-page proposal unveiled Tuesday reads much like a real estate prospectus. It promises the Palestinians a $50 billion economic development plan, jobs and investments as a way out of poverty, and statehood at some point in the future. The catch? Theirs would be a demilitarized state fully enclosed by Israel, whose security interests would take precedent.

“A realistic solution would give the Palestinians all the power to govern themselves but not the powers to threaten Israel,” as the Vision itself puts it.

The map tweeted out by Trump shows the possible Palestinian state as a patchwork of enclaves connected by roads and tunnels, surrounded by Israel and itself surrounding Israeli settlements. It has already drawn comparisons to Swiss cheese, Indian reservations in the US, and bantustans under the apartheid South Africa.

Neither Palestinians nor Israelis will be uprooted from their homes, the Vision promises. But what of those who already have been? The thorniest issue since the establishment of Israel in 1948 has not been how much land would Palestine get – but whether the displaced Palestinians and their descendants would have the ‘Right of Return’. Trump’s answer to that is a resolute “no.”

The Vision offers those Palestinians a choice to live “within the future State of Palestine, integrate into the countries where they currently live, or resettle in a third country.” Additionally, the Palestinians must recognize Israel’s existence as a Jewish state. A vision of Palestine “from the river to the sea” would be dead forever.

Anyone with even a cursory understanding of the situation would instantly see that the Vision is dead on arrival. There is no Palestinian political movement at this point that would be willing to accept this, no matter how much money or land they are offered. 

Standing next to Trump, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu beamed, despite having just been indicted on corruption charges at home. Reading the Vision, one would understand why. Trump’s proposal gives him almost everything he wanted. The four-year freeze to settlement activity in the West Bank – which Bibi repeatedly called “Judea and Samaria” – is entirely contingent on Palestinian acceptance of the Vision. Meanwhile, Israel will annex the territories allocated to it under the plan right away, Netanyahu announced.

All of this puts the Palestinians in a very difficult position. The US has now openly sided with Israel, abandoning the long-held pretense of being the “honest broker.” Even if they could somehow get over the recognition of Israel and the refugee issue – which they can’t, and won’t – the Vision offers them less than what they rejected at Camp David in 2000 in terms of land. Then again, that has been the trend ever since 1948.

The way it has been written and presented, it seems reasonable to American and Western audiences. Palestinians will appear fanatical and irrational for rejecting what may be “the last opportunity they will ever have,” as Trump said on Tuesday.

Looking for support to neighbors and coreligionists may be difficult, too. Representatives of Oman, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates were in attendance at the White House announcement. Led by Saudi Arabia, most Arab countries of the region seem to have forged an alliance of convenience with Israel against Iran. Trump did not miss the opportunity to point that out, either.

It is tempting to dismiss the Vision as a typically American document, unconcerned with the history, culture, beliefs and values of the people whose affairs it intervenes in. Some critics have also derided it as Trumpian real-estate thinking. While it may be a bit of both, such criticism misses the point.

The Vision is very “Trumpian” in the sense that it seeks to cut through the problem rather than untangle it, just as Alexander the Great did with the proverbial Gordian knot. Trump described the plan as a “win-win,” but while it may not be so for the Palestinians and maybe even the Israelis, it certainly is for him.

Some might point out that the Vision goes against international law and every UN resolution since 1947. Others might note that the US has never seen the need to observe such niceties. 

Washington has long acted in the spirit of imperial Athens, believing that might makes right – or “the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must,” as Thucydides described it over 2,000 years ago. For all his talk about sovereignty and freedom, Trump has had no problem acting imperial, whether in claiming Syrian oil fields or extrajudicially assassinating Iranian generals in Iraq.

No, for international law one would have to look to Moscow – where Netanyahu is actually headed now, in what surely must be a remarkable coincidence.